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"Divinae Consortium Naturae" 
on the 

Sacrament of Confirmation 

The Sacrament of Confirmation 

The sharing in the divine nature which is granted to men 
through the grace of Christ has a certain likeness to the origin, 
development and nourishing of natural life. The faithful are born 
anew by Baptism, strengthened by the sacrament of Confirmation 
and finally are sustained by the food of eternal life in the Eucha- 
rist. By means of these sacraments of Christian initiation, they 
thus receive in increasing measure the treasures of divine life and 
advance towards the perfection of charity. It has rightly been 
written: "The body is washed, that the soul may be cleansed; the 
body is anointed, that the soul may be consecrated; the body is 
signed, that the soul too may be fortified; the body is over- 
shadowed by the laying on of hands, that the soul too may be 
enlightened by the Spirit; the body is fed on the body and blood 
of Christ, that the soul too should be nourished by God" (1). 

The Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, conscious of its pas- 
toral purpose, devoted special attention to these sacraments of 
initiation. It prescribed that the rites thereof should be suitably 
revised in order to make them more fitted to the understanding of 
the faithful. Since the Order for the Baptism of Infants, revised on 
the instructions of that General Council and published at our com- 
mand, is already in use, it is now fitting to publish the rite of 

Confirmation, in order to show in its true light the unity of 
Christian initiation. 

In fact, careful attention and application has been devoted in 
these last years to the task of revising the manner of celebrating 
this sacrament. The aim of this work has been that "the intimate 
connection which this sacrament has with the whole of Christian 
initiation should be more lucidly set forth" (2). The link between 
Confirmation and the other sacraments of initiation is shown forth 
more clearly not only by closer association of these sacraments 
but also by the rite and words by which Confirmation is con- 
ferred. This is done so that the rite and words of this sacrament 
may "express more clearly the holy things which they signify. 
Christian people, as far as possible, should be able to understand 
them easily and as a community fully and actively participate in 
these celebrations" (3). 

For that purpose, it has been our wish also to include in this 
revision what concerns the very essence of the rite of Con- 
firmation, through which the faithful receive the Holy Spirit as a 

To bear fearless witness 

The New Testament shows how the Holy Spirit assisted Christ 
in fulfilling his messianic mission. On receiving the baptism of 
John, Jesus saw the Spirit descending on him (cfr. Mk. 1, 10) and 
remaining with him (cfr. Jn. 1, 32). He was impelled by the Spirit 
to undertake his public ministry as the Messiah, relying on the 
Spirifs presence and assistance. Teaching the people of Nazareth, 
he insinuated by what he said that the word of Isaiah, "The Spirit 
of the Lord has been given to me", referred to himself (cfr. Lk. 4, 

He later promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would help 
them too to bear fearless witness to their faith even before perse- 
cution (cfr. Lk. 12, 12). The day before he suffered, he assured his 
Apostles that he would send the Spirit of truth from his Father 
(cfr. Jn. 15, 25) to stay with them "for ever" (Jn. 14, 16) and help 
them to be his witnesses (cfr. Jn. 15, 26). Finally, after his resur- 
rection, Christ promised the coming descent of the Holy Spirit: 
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, 
and then you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1, 8; cfr. Lk. 24, 49). 

And in fact, on the day of the feast of Pentecost, the Holy 


Spirit came down in an extraordinary way on the Apostles as they 
were gathered together with Mary the Mother of Jesus and the 
group of disciples. They were then so "filled with" the Holy Spirit 
(Acts 2, 38). From then onwards the Apostles, in fulfillment of 
mighty works of God". Peter regarded the Spirit who had thus 
come down upon the Apostles as the gift of the messianic age (cfr. 
Acts 2, 17-18). Those who believed the Apostles' preaching were 
then baptized and they too received "the gift of the Holy Spirit" 
(Acts 2, 38). From then onwards the Apostles, in fulfilment of 
Chrisfs wish, imparted to the neophytes by the laying on of hands 
the gift of the Spirit, to complete the grace of Baptism. Hence it is 
that the Letter to the Hebrews lists among the elements of basic 
Christian instruction the teaching about baptisms and the laying 
on of hands (Heb. 6, 2). This laying on of hands is rightly recog- 
nized by Catholic tradition as the beginning of the sacrament of 
Confirmation, which in a certain way perpetuates in the Church 
the grace of Pentecost. 

This makes clear the specific importance of Confirmation for 
the sacramental initiation whereby the faithful "as members of the 
living Christ, are incorporated into Him and made like unto Him 
through Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist" (4). In Bap- 
tism, neophytes receive forgiveness of sins, adoption as sons of 
God and the character of Christ, whereby they are made members 
of the Church and given a first sharing in the priesthood of their 
Saviour (cfr. 1 Pet. 2, 5-9). Through the sacrament of Con- 
firmation, those who have been born anew in Baptism receive the 
inexpressible Gift, the Holy Spirit himself, by which "they are 
endowed . . . with special strength" (5). Moreover, having received 
the character of this sacrament, they are "bound more intimately 
to the Church" (6) and "they are more strictly obliged to spread 
and defend the faith both by word and by deed as true witnesses 
of Christ" (7). Finally, Confirmation is so closely linked with the 
Holy Eucharist (8) that the faithful, after being signed by Holy 
Baptism and Confirmation, are incorporated fully into the Body 
of Christ by participation in the Eucharist (9). 

Various rites in the past 

From ancient times the conferring of the gift of the Holy 
Spirit has been carried out in the Church with various rites. These 
rites underwent many changes in the East and in the West, while 


ever keeping the significance of a conferring of the Holy Spirit. 

In many Eastern Rites, it seems that, from early times, a rite 
of anointing, not then clearly distinguished from Baptism, pre- 
vailed for the conferring of the Holy Spirit (10). That rite con- 
tinues in use today in the greater part of the Eastern Churches. 

In the West there are to be found very ancient testimonies 
regarding the part of Christian initiation which was later distinctly 
recognized as the Sacrament of Confirmation. After the baptismal 
washing and before the eucharistic meal, the performance of many 
rites is indicated, such as anointing, the laying on of the hand and 
"signing" (11). These are contained both in liturgical documents 
(12) and in many testimonies of the Fathers. In the course of the 
centuries, problems and doubts arose as to what belonged with 
certainty to the essence of the rite of Confirmation. It is fitting to 
mention some at least of the elements which, from the thirteenth 
century onwards, in the Ecumenical Councils and in the docu- 
ments of the Popes, contributed not a little to casting light on the 
importance of the anointing, while at the same time not allowing 
the laying on of hands to be obscured. 

Our predecessor Innocent III wrote as follows: "By the anoint- 
ing of the forehead the laying on of the hand is designated, which 
is otherwise called Confirmation, since through it the Holy Spirit 
is given for growth and strength" (13). Another of our prede- 
cessors, Innocent IV, recalls that the Apostles conferred the Holy 
Spirit "through the laying on of the hand, which confirmation or 
the anointing of the forehead represents" (14). In the Profession 
of Faith of Emperor Michael Palaeologus, which was read at the 
Second Council of Lyons, mention is made of the sacrament of 
confirmation, which "bishops confer by the laying on of hands, 
anointing with chrism those who have been baptized" (15). The 
Decree for the Armenians, issued by the Council of Florence, 
declares that the "matter" of the sacrament of Confirmation is 
"chrism made of olive oil . . . and balsam" (16), and, quoting the 
words of the Acts of the Apostles concerning Peter and John, who 
gave the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands (cfr. Acts 8, 
17), it adds: "in place of that laying on of the hand, in the Church 
confirmation is given" (17). The Council of Trent, though it has 
no intention of defining the essential rite of Confirmation, never- 
theless designates it with the sole name of the sacred chrism of 
Confirmation (18). Benedict XIV made the following declaration: 
"Therefore let this, which is beyond dispute, be said: in the Latin 


Church the sacrament of Confirmation is conferred by using 
sacred chrism or olive oil, mixed with balsam and blessed by the 
bishop, and by the tracing of the sign of the cross by the minister 
of the sacrament on the forehead of the recipient, while the same 
minister pronounces the words of the form" (19). 

The anointing with chrism 

Many theologians, taking account of these declarations and 
traditions, maintained that for valid administration of Con- 
firmation there was required only anointing with chrism by laying 
the hand on the forehead. In spite of this, however, in the rites of 
the Latin Church a laying on of hands upon those to be confirmed 
was always prescribed before the anointing. 

With regard to the words of the rite whereby the Holy Spirit is 
given it should be noted that, already in the primitive Church, 
Peter and John, in order to complete the initiation of those bap- 
tized in Samaria, prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit, and 
then laid hands on them (cfr. Acts 8, 15-17). In the East, in the 
fourth and fifth centuries there appear in the rite of anointing the 
first indications of the words "signaculum doni Spiritus Sancti" 
(20). These words were quickly accepted by the Church of Con- 
stantinople, and are still used by the Churches of the Byzantine 

In the West however the words of this rite, which completed 
Baptism, were until the twelfth and thirteenth centuries less 
defined. But it is in the twelfth century Roman Pontifical that the 
formula which later became the common one first occurs: "I sign 
you with the sign of the cross and confirm you with the chrism of 
salvation. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the 
Holy Spirit"(21). 

From what we have recalled, it is clear that in the adminis- 
tration of Confirmation in the East and in the West, though in 
different ways, the most important place was occupied by the 
anointing, which in a certain way represents the laying on of hands 
practiced by the Apostles. Since this anointing with chrism well 
represents the spiritual anointing of the Holy Spirit, who is given 
to the faithful, we intend to confirm its existence and importance. 

As regards the words which are pronounced in Confirmation, 
we have indeed examined with due consideration the dignity of 
the venerable formula in use in the Latin Church; but we judge 


preferable the very ancient formula belonging to the Byzantine 
Rite, whereby the Gift of the Holy Spirit himself is expressed and 
the outpouring of the Spirit which took place on the day of Pente- 
cost is recalled (cfr. Acts 2, 1-4, 38). We therefore adopt this 
formula, rendering it almost word for word. 

Laying on "of the hand" 

Therefore, in order that the revision of the rite of Con- 
firmation may fittingly embrace also the essence of the sacra- 
mental rite, by Our Supreme Apostolic Authority, We decree and 
lay down that in the Latin Church the following should be 
observed for the future: 

The Sacrament of Confirmation is conferred through the 
anointing with chrism on the forehead, which is done by the lay- 
ing on of the hand, and through the words: "Accipe signaculum 
doni Spiritus SanctV\ 

Although the laying of hands ori the candidates, which is done 
with the prescribed prayer before the anointing, does not belong 
to the essence of the sacramental rite, it is nevertheless to be held 
in high esteem, in that it contributes to the full perfection of the 
same rite and to a clearer understanding of the sacrament. It is 
evident that this preceding laying on of hands differs from the 
laying on of the hand, whereby the anointing is done on the 

Having established and declared all these elements concerning 
the essential rite of the sacrament of Confirmation, we also 
approve by Our Apostolic Authority the Order for the same sacra- 
ment, which has been revised by the Sacred Congregation for 
Divine Worship, after consultations with the Sacred Congre- 
gations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for the Discipline of the 
Sacraments and for the Evangelization of Peoples as regards the 
matters which are within their competence. The Latin edition of 
the Order containing the new form will come into force as soon as 
it is published; the editions in the vernacular languages, prepared 
by the episcopal conferences and confirmed by the Apostolic See, 
will come into force on the dates to be laid down by the individual 
conferences. The old Order may be used until the end of the year 
1972. From 1 January 1973, however, only the new Order is to be 
used by all concerned. 

We intend that everything that we have laid down and pre- 
scribed should be firm and effective in the Latin Church, notwith- 


standing, where relevant, the apostolic constitutions and ordi- 
nances issued by our predecessors, and other prescriptions, even if 
worthy of special mention. 

Given in Rome, at Saint Peter's, on the fifteenth day of 
August, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin 
Mary, in the year nineteen hundred and seventy one, the ninth of 
our Pontificate. 



1) Tertullian, De resurrectione mortuorum, VIII, 3; CCL, 2, p. 931. 

2) Cfr. Second Vatican Council, Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, 
71, AAS 56 (1964), p. 118. 

3) Cfr. ibidem 21, p. 106. 

4) Cfr. Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad Gentes, 36, AAS (1966), p. 


5) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 11, 
AAS 57 (1965), p. 15. 

6) Ibidem. 

l)Ibidem; cfr. Decree Ad Gentes, 11, AAS 58 (1969), pp. 959-960. 

8) Cfr. Second Vatican Council, Decree Presbyterorum Ordinis, 5, AAS 
58 (1966), p. 997. 

9) Cfr. ibidem, pp. 997-998. 

10) Cfr. Origen, De Principiis, I, 3, 2; GCS, 22, p. 49 sq. ; Comm. in Ep. ad 
Rom., V, 8; PG, 14, 1038; Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech. XVI, 26; XXI, 1-7 ; PG, 
33, 956; 1088-1093. 

11) Tertullian, De Baptismo, VII-VIII; CCL, I, p. 282 sq.; B. Botte, La 
tradition apostolique de Saint Hippolyte: Liturgiewissenschaftliche Quellen 
und Forschungen, 39, Munster in W., 1963, pp. 52-54; Ambrose, De Sacra- 
mentis, II, 24; III, 2, 8; VI, 2, 9; CSEL, LXXIII, pp. 36, 42, 74-75; De 
Mysteriis, VII, 42; ibidem p. 106. 

12) Liber Sacramentorum Romanae Ecclesiae Ordinis Anni circuli, ed. L. 
C. Mohlberg: Rerum Ecclesiasticarum Documenta, Fontes, IV, Roma 1960, 
p. 75; Das Sacramentarium Gregorianum nach dem Aachener Urexemplar, ed. 
H. Lietzmann: Liturgiegeschichtliche Quellen, 3, Munster in W., 1921, p. 53 
sq.; Liber Ordinum, ed. M. Ferotin: Monumenta Ecclesiae Liturgica, V, Paris, 
1904, p. 33 sq.; Missale Gallicanum Vetus, ed. L. C. Mohlberg: Rerum Ec- 
clesiasticarum Documenta, Fontes, III, Roma, 1958, p. 42; Missale Gothicum, 
ed. L. C. Mohlberg: Rerum Ecclesiasticarum Documenta, V, Roma, 1961, p. 
67; C. Vogel - R. Elze, Le Pontifical Romano-Germanique du dixieme siecle, 
Le Texte, II: Studi e Testi, 227, Citta del Vaticano, 1963, p. 109; M. 
Andrieu, Le Pontifical Romain au Moyen-Age, t. 1, Le Pontifical Romain du 
XII siecle: Studi e Testi, 86, Citta del Vaticano, 1938, pp. 247 sq. et 289; t. 
2, Le Pontifical de la Curie Romaine au XIII siecle: Studi e Testi, 87, Citta 
del Vaticano, 1940, pp. 452 sq. 

13) Ep. "Cum Venisset"; PL, 215, 285. The profession of faith which the 
same Pope prescribed for the Waldensians includes the following: Confir- 
mationem ab episcopo factam, id est impositionem manuum, sanctam et 


uenerande accipiendam esse censemus; PL, 215, 1511. 

14) Ep. "Sub Catholica professione"; Mansi, Conc. Coll., t. 23, 579. 

15) Mansi, Concl. Coll., t. 24, 71. 

16) Epistolae Pontificiae ad Concilium Florentinum spectantes, ed. G. G. 
Hofmann: Concilium Florentinum, vol. I, ser. A, pars II, Roma, 1944, p. 128. 

17) Ibidem, p. 129. 

18) Concilii Tridentini Actorum pars altera, ed. S. Ehses: Concilium 
Tridentinum, V, Act. II, Friburgi Br.,n911, p. 996. 

19) Ep. "Ex quo primum tempore'\ 52; Benedicti XIV . . . Bullarium, t. 
III, Prati, 1847, p. 320. 

20) Cfr. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catech., XVIII, 33; PG, 1056; Asterius, Bis- 
hop of Amasea, In parabolam de filio prodigo, in "Photii Bibliotheca", Cod. 
271; PG, 104, 213. Cfr. also Epistola cuiusdam Patriarchae Constanti- 
nopolitani ad Martyrium Episcopum Antiochenum, PG, 119, 900. 

21) M. Andrieu, Le Pontifical Romain au Moyen-Age, t. 1, Le Pontifical 
Romain du XII siecle: Studi e Teste, 86, Citta del Vaticano, 1938, p. 247. 

Taken from the English Edition of: L'Osseruatore Romano, September 23, 1971 

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